HDB: Upgrading costs too much for some, says MP

The makeover of their homes is welcomed, but would the weight on the wallets of the low-income be too much?

Member of Parliament (MP) Cynthia Phua of Aljunied GRC raised this concern yesterday as Parliament debated proposals to usher in new upgrading programmes for public housing. The objective – repair works on ceiling leaks, for example, to spruce up ageing homes – was not in question.

Even Opposition MP Chiam See Tong added his support for the Home Improvement Scheme announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year’s National Day Rally – while asking for his residents to get their due turn to be selected.

But, as three MPs spoke on the issue, the biggest worry was that homeowners’ share of the bill, between 5 and 12.5 per cent, would be too much for some.

“I therefore appeal to the (National Development) Ministry to create some air pockets for the lower-income residents before they suffer from hypoxia because of rising inflation,” said Mdm Phua.

She asked the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to absorb the quantum for smaller units and a lower co-payment for four-room flats or bigger.

In reply, Minister of State Grace Fu said there would be repayment schemes to make the renovation process affordable. But she added that the scheme was not a substitute for routine maintenance and practical repairs for which HDB lessees have to be responsible.

In reply to a request by Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) for the Government’s upgrading schemes to be extended to private estates, Ms Fu said such Government surpluses would be kept for public housing.

As for Mr Chiam’s request, he was told that Potong Pasir’s turn would come – eventually. – Zul Othman

Source : Today – 22 Jan 2008

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